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October 26, 2016 / 24 Tishri, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘Rav Kook’

Religious-Zionist Rabbis Welcome Evolution into School Curriculum

Monday, June 2nd, 2014

Israel’s Religious-Zionist Rabbis are welcoming the introduction of evolution into the High School core curriculum, according to a report on NRG.

From Rabbi Amnon Bazak of Yeshiva Har Etzion to Rabbi Yuval Sherlo of Yeshivat Amit, and even Rabbi Shlomo Aviner of Ateret Cohanim, the rabbis are not expressing concern over teaching the theory of evolution in state religious schools, and some are even saying it is a good thing.

Rabbi Bazak said it is important that students learn how to deal seriously with questions of religion and science, and in particular, evolution. Rabbi Bazak said that ignoring evolution in the religious education system creates the impression that it’s better to ignore or reject as nonsense any threatening concept.

Rabbi Sherlo said, instead of seeing Israeli children lose their religion, we can use this to teach them to own their faith, and for us to grow students who believe, and have their eyes open and filled with knowledge.

The rabbi added that new scientific theories excite him, and it offers the student the opportunity for a deeper reading of Creation as well as to understand that the Torah and science are speaking in two different languages, and there can be no contradiction between the two.

Rabbi Aviner said, the question isn’t whether man evolved from animals, but rather if we still meet the animal in the person in the real world.

Rabbi Aviner added, the story of Creation is not literal, but rather a hint, a secret. And Rav Kook did not see a contradiction between evolution and the Torah.

Evolution is still a scientific theory, he pointed out, and new facts or hypothesis could one day replace it. Rabbi Aviner hopes Israel does not see its own version of the Skopes Monkey Trials.

Shalom Bear

The Holocaust and Jewish Morality: The Views of a Survivor

Sunday, April 27th, 2014

I. “Blessed are You … Who Has Not Made Me a Gentile”

As an educator and a survivor, Rav Amital has frequently addressed the implications of the Holocaust. The question of Jewish identity, for example, has been greatly affected by the legacy of the Holocaust:

I believe that in our times, the ABC of Jewish identity is identification with these two events: the Holocaust – in other words, Jewish fate – and the State of Israel, as the continuation of Jewish fate. Although there is no balance between these two events…

I say identification with the Holocaust: identification that is conscious; identification out of will; identification with the family of the murdered, and not with the murderers.

I think I have never recited the traditional blessing, “Who has not made me a gentile” – in other words, “Who has made me a Jew” – with the same emotion as I did in the days when I saw myself amongst the family of the murdered, while on the other side the entire world belonged to the family of the murderers – whether they were active murderers or people who stood silently by while children were killed. I believe that this must be demanded of every Jew, with Jewish pride. On the other hand, one must also see in the revival of Israel the unique Jewish fate, the continuation of the prophecy of “a nation that dwells alone” (Numbers 23:9), and I think that that is indeed a moral definition [of Jewish nationhood], but because of its morality, it does not seem harsh to me.[2]

I never said the blessing, “Blessed art Thou, Lord our God, King of the Universe, who did not make me a gentile,” with such fervor, as I used to recite it during those dark days. Specifically during those days, especially during those days – despite everything, I was proud to be counted among the murdered and not the murderers.[3]

Rav Amital invests the blessing “Who has not made me a gentile” with new content and meaning:[4] It is the dividing line between the family of victims and the family of murderers. The use of the word “family” to connote group identity is not coincidental. The family is the primary source for identity definition. The fact of belonging to the family of victims is itself “Jewish pride.” This is not pride in an active deed, not even an act of self-defense, but rather pride in something that the Israeli ethos denied, for many years, as a source of pride.[5]

In a lecture delivered on Holocaust Memorial Day, Rav Amital sharpened this point over and over. After speaking about the fact that the explanation and significance of the Holocaust were completely unintelligible to him, he claimed that there was one point that did have significance for our times, and that was the single clear meaning that we can learn from the Holocaust period:

If there was a single point of light in the Holocaust, it was this: there were two camps there; on one side the camp of the murderers, and on the other side the camp of the murdered. Happy are we that we belonged to the camp of the murdered. The heavens and earth can testify on our behalf: if the nation of Israel had been given the opportunity to reverse roles, the nation of Israel would have said that it is preferable to be among the murdered than among the murderers. This is a historical point of light that cannot be overshadowed.[6]

Sensitivity to human life and fear of moral corruption are strengthened and sharpened by the memory of the Holocaust. What is generally perceived as a “universal message” of the Holocaust is considered by Rav Amital to be specifically its “Jewish message.” In contrast to those who distinguish between the Jewish message of the Holocaust and its universal significance, Rav Amital identifies these two messages as a single one.[7] The internal obligation of moral behavior is what characterizes the Jewish national identity.

2. Moral Foundations – Cornerstone of our Concept of Nationalism

a. “All the World on One Side, and He on the Other Side”[8]

In a discourse dealing with the demand for morality even in relation to the enemy, not out of halakhic obligation but rather out of internal moral conviction, Rav Amital stated:

We are familiar with the nations of the world and their hypocrisy, we see now their denial of all that happened to Jews in the extermination camps… We owe them nothing. We owe it only to the Holy One, who entrusted us with a certain mission, to sanctify the Name of Heaven.[9]

This loss of faith in the nations of the world appears elsewhere, too, sometimes also in the context of the Holocaust. In a lecture after the Yom Kippur War, Rav Amital stated that the war had undermined some of the assumptions that had anchored the previously prevalent optimism. One of these assumptions was that “the countries committed to a heritage of human culture – whose conscience still troubles them over what happened to the Jews during the Holocaust period – would not allow Israel to fall prey to the Arabs.”[10] This assumption, in Rav Amital’s view, was proven false: “As to the aid that might have been expected from the ‘cultured Christian world,’ we may as well not waste words. The picture that was revealed to us is clear, explicit and harsh in all its cruelty.”[11]

Rav Amital utters his sharpest statements against the nations of the world where he places the entire world on one side – the murderers and their assistants, and the nation of Israel on the other side – the victims:

…in the days when I saw myself amongst the family of the murdered, while on the other side the entire world belonged to the family of the murderers – whether they were active murderers or people who stood silently by while children were killed.[12]

This is one of the most important lessons of the Holocaust:

Are you really speaking of a lesson? You want to ensure Jewish survival. What took place in the Holocaust – its foundation and basis – was that we stood against the world; all the world on one side, Abraham the Hebrew and us on the other side. This basic situation continues to exist.[13]

In a sermon built on several layers of midrashic interpretations, Rav Amital describes Israel’s isolation, which is – as it were – an image of the isolation of the Master of the Universe. And He, the Holy One, is the “grandfather,” as it were, whose attributes are passed down to His grandchildren:

Jacob stands facing a hostile world and battles alone against the prince of Esau (Gen. 32:25), who represents all the physical, brutal power in the world. If he had any friends, they were on the other side of the river. Jacob is forced to fight alone, and our Sages see a parallel and similarity here to the “Grandfather,” the Holy One; just as He is alone there, so he (Jacob) is alone here…[14] At the time when Jacob remained alone, it was specifically then that the strength of His God is revealed – it is then that “God shall be elevated (nisgav) alone on that day” (Isaiah 2:121) is revealed. It is then that it is revealed to Jacob himself that his strength is not of the same sort as that of Esau. It is not measured by the number of weapons that he possesses; his advantage lies in “the God of Jacob, Selah”… “It is a nation that shall dwell alone, it shall not be counted among the nations” (Numbers 23:9)![15]

These words were uttered immediately after the Yom Kippur War. Where does the story of Jacob end, and the war begin? Where does the latter end and the Holocaust begin? Where does the verse end and its exposition begin? And where does the exposition of the Sages end, and that of Rav Amital begin? All are intertwined. Let us pay attention to a few lines that follow after the above excerpt:

Indeed, in this situation of Jacob fighting alone, there is an exaltedness that contains something of the Divine exaltedness. It is not a loftiness of this world. The inner power that is revealed inJacob at the time when he remains alone is a sort of Divine strength. The power of God alone being exalted.[16]

A view of the upper world as reflecting the lower world (and vice versa) fits in well with other statements by Rav Amital, not only concerning the solitariness and loneliness of God and of the nation of Israel, but also concerning the content of this unique status. Rav Amital claims that the universal destiny of the nation of Israel is a life of moral behavior that assumes that “Beloved is man” – every man – “for he was created in God’s image,” [Mishna, Avot 3:14.] and that man is required to cleave to God’s attributes of mercy.[17]

b. “The Way of Israel”

The term “Jewish morality” is used by Jews to express the entire spectrum of moral views and commandments that, to their minds, are to be found in the Jewish religion and in Jewish tradition.[18] This term, as employed by both religious and secular Jews, is a function of Jewish self-image. The self-image of “merciful people who perform kindnesses” is what defines their moral obligation. Thus we find that Maimonides, for example, goes so far as to cast aspersions on the genealogy of one who does not behave in this manner, and there can be no clearer definition of identity than this:

Anyone who has within him brazenness or cruelty, who hates others and does not perform kindness towards them, is greatly suspect of being a Gibeonite, for the signs of Israel, the holy nation, are that they are bashful, merciful and perform kindnesses.[19]

It is prohibited for a person to be cruel and not to be appeased; rather, he should be easy to appease and slow to anger… this is the way of the seed of Israel and their sound heart.[20]

This image creates an obligation to act in accordance with the “measure of piety” (middat hasidut) – even if the law does not explicitly require such behavior. Ehud Luz[21] notes the fact that, according to Maimonides, the full significance of the self-image contained in the expression “Israel’s way” creates a moral obligation in a place where no halakhic obligation exists.[22]

Rav Amital claims that moral obligation is part of the national identity of the Jewish People, the identity of a nation whose kings are merciful kings [I Kings 20:31.] and perform many kindnesses. These principles arise in Rav Amital’s teachings over the course of many years and, as we have seen, they are accentuated and strengthened against the background of the Holocaust.[23]

Rav Amital addresses the view that natural moral obligations are the cornerstone of national Jewish identity in an article on Rav Kook’s statements about this issue.[24] This article is not a theoretical analysis of Rav Kook’s teachings, but rather an attempt to clarify points that have modern and vital relevance.[25] Rav Amital selects a portion of Rav Kook’s teachings “that seems to deal with a general problem which bears no connection to the realities of his day. Yet, after careful study, it becomes clear that it is anchored in his nationalist and Zionist perception, and it has great significance precisely in our time.”[26] This statement indicates the importance of this subject for understanding Rav Amital’s own ideology. In the article, Rav Amital highlights Rav Kook’s view concerning moral obligations that are not codified in normative Jewish law:

Moral duties that we are accustomed to define merely as pious deeds, or beyond the letter of the Law, are thus found to be the essence of the Torah.[27]

Rav Amital explains that, to Rav Kook’s view, these obligations have a certain advantage over obligatory laws:

… [I]t is desirable that these supererogatory deeds be performed out of an autonomous inner compulsion as a form of free-will offering and an expression of the love of kindness… [T]he ideal is to keep the Torah as the Patriarchs kept it, that is, out of a free, inner cognition, and not by strength of a heavenly command.[28]

This is not just a matter of individual awareness and conscience, but also a guiding principle in Jewish national destiny:

This great destiny … is what gives meaning and significance to Jewish existence; it is planted in the depths of the Jew’s inner consciousness; it is the source of his longing for redemption.[29]

In other words, it is specifically the moral obligations that are defined as “the measure of piety” and as lying “beyond the letter of the Law” that define the Jewish national identity. This is both an inner self-definition and an outward destiny:

In other words, if all the moral duties were to be turned into mandatory Halakha, it would be detrimental to Israel’s mission of being a light to the nations. It is the very fact that the people of Israel reached, through the Torah’s guidance, a moral way of life out of a free inner awareness, that will cause many nations to marvel and will inspire them to ascend to the mountain of the Lord. This is “the Torah [that] will go forth from Zion” and this is the “word of the Lord [which will emanate] from Jerusalem.”[30]

Paradoxically, it is specifically the fact that the command to “love your neighbor as yourself,” for example, is directed – according to its halakhic definition – only towards Jews, and specifically the fact that “the superficiality of several laws”[31] and of a few statements of the Sages appear to direct one’s love of others to Jews only, that make the national morality directed towards other peoples into a mitzvah that arises from the ideal place from which a moral act should arise – the free, inner awareness, and not heteronomous Divine command. It is not defined by the boundaries of Halakha because “The love of fellow men must burst forth from the source of lovingkindness.”[32]

Rav Amital emphasizes these components of Rav Kook’s philosophy. The principle of universal, natural morality – morality that is directed by the Jewish people towards everyone, and which is required of everyone – stands at the foundation of Jewish nationalism. This is not a nationalism that limits goodness and kindness to itself, but rather one that brings goodness to all. It is unable to bear “any hatred or injustice, nor any limitation or shrinking of goodness and lovingkindness.”[33] This natural morality is the crux of the Torah. And “when the people of Israel will succeed in bringing this message to the world, mankind will be healed.”[34] These moral foundations are a cornerstone in Rav Kook’s national and Zionist perception, and they are the reason for and destiny of Jewish national existence.

It should be emphasized that Rav Amital quotes one of Rav Kook’s teachings which, at the time, was not accorded the proper weight and attention: “it is precisely in our days that we can understand them in all their depth and recognize their actual and vital significance.”[35] Although Rav Amital does not provide an explicit reference in his statement as to the practical relevance and vitality of Rav Kook’s words, he hints again and again at its significance throughout the article.[36] At the beginning of the article, Rav Amital points to a number of events that have exerted a great influence on our times, events which Rav Kook never foresaw. These include the Holocaust and the Israeli-Arab wars. From here Rav Amital goes on to examine how these two phenomena would have influenced Rav Kook’s teachings. The parts of his teachings that have become especially relevant are the moral principles contained within his nationalist ideal, promising a nationalism that will not lead to moral degeneration and a belief in the use of force, belligerence and violence.

The practical application of these ideas receives expression in a letter and a discourse originating in September 1983, relating to current events during the period of the Lebanon War:[37]

The fact that these thoughts[38] are inserted into verses, statements of the Sages and expressions borrowed from the style of Rav Kook, of blessed memory, … makes me shudder.[39]

Amongst the public one gets the impression… that this world-view is based on the teachings of Rav Kook, of sainted memory. My heart is pained over the desecration of Rav Kook’s honor; how great is the distance betthe light that shines forth from his teachings and the spirit that emanates from the above-mentioned utterances and publications. Anyone who is convinced, as I am, that an injustice is being done to the teachings of our masters and teachers who have illuminated the world – Rav A.Y. ha-Kohen Kook and Rav Y.M. Harlap, of sainted memory – may he be silent? And if he may, can he be silent? The Name of Heaven is desecrated, for our many sins; is it possible to be silent!?[40]

In a similar context, Rav Amital writes in a letter: “It pains me that such words emanate from a learned Torah scholar and are attributed, directly or indirectly, to Rav Kook, of blessed memory, and to Rav Harlap, of blessed memory.”[41] Rav Amital points to sources where Rav Kook speaks about man’s natural morality, upon which his fear of heaven should be based, and about the value of love of all of humanity.[42]

The emphasis on the moral dimension of Jewish identity and of the moral demands placed on the Jewish nation have assumed an increasingly central place in Rav Amital’s thought. In fact, Rav Amital has gone so far as to reject the identification of the real State of Israel with Rav Kook’s ideal state that is “the foundation of God’s throne in this world,”[43] since the State of Israel fails to meet our moral expectations (as well as for other reasons). In other words, the centrality of Jewish morality does not sit well with the Religious Zionist ideology that relates to the State of Israel as “the foundation of God’s throne in the world.” The political and ideological significance of such a statement is clear. Rav Amital’s stance in this regard is consistent, and has become increasingly strong in recent years.

By Moshe Maya[1]

Translated by Kaeren Fish


[1] This is an abridged excerpt from Moshe Maya’s book about Rav Amital’s views on the Holocaust: A World Built, Destroyed and Rebuilt: Rav Yehuda Amital’s Confrontation with the Memory of the Holocaust (Ktav, 2005).

[2] “A World Built and Destroyed and Rebuilt: A Television Panel Discussion,” Yalkut Moreshet 22, 1977 [Hebrew], pp. 12-13.

[3] “Forty Years Later: A Personal Recollection,” Alon Shevut Bogrim 3, 1994, p. 88; http://www.vbm-torah.org/archive/rya0-40.htm.

[4] See Tosefta, Berakhot 6:18. There is widespread rabbinical debate as to the proper understanding of these blessings. For a partial review, see: Rav Y. Yaakovson, Netiv Binah, I, Tel Aviv 1964, pp. 89-90, 164 onwards [Hebrew].

[5] See: Amos Funkenstein, Perceptions of Jewish History, Berkeley 1993; Anita Shapira, Land and Power: The Zionist Resort to Force, 1881-1948, New York 1992; see also in the collection: Major Changes Within the Jewish People in the Wake of the Holocaust, Jerusalem 1993, esp. the articles by A. Shapira, Y. Gelber and D. Shaked. This statement by Rav Amital was published already in 1977, at a time when such voices were barely a whisper in Israeli public debate.

[6] “A Kaddish for the Martyrs of the Holocaust,” Ot Va-Ed – Pirkei Iyun U-Meida, N.P. 1990, p. 8.

[7] Rav Amital states elsewhere that the messages emerging from the Holocaust are not the business of Jews only, but are rather of universal concern: “This was not a process that concerned only our nation. It was a universal process, an all-embracing dilemma. We must not consider only the individual, because especially in regard to this aberration of human endeavor, there is no individual without the whole” (“Forty Years Later,” p. 85).

[8]Genesis Rabbah, Lekh Lekha 41, 8 (Theodor-Albeck edition, p. 414).

[9] Rav Y. Amital, “Matters of Obligation and Obligations of Conscience,” Daf Kesher vol. 1, Alon Shevut 1988, p. 29; http://www.etzion.org.il/dk/1to899/010daf.htm[Hebrew].

[10] HaMa’alot MiMa’amakim [The Steps from the Depths], Jerusalem and Alon Shevut 1974 [Hebrew], p. 34.

[11] Ibid.

[12] “A World Built,” p. 12; also in similar wording in “A Kaddish,” p. 8.

[13] “A World Built,” p. 17.

[14] “Just as it is written concerning the Holy One, ‘He shall be elevated alone (levado)’ (Isaiah 2:11), so Jacob ‘remains alone (levado)’ (Genesis 32:24)” (Genesis Rabbah,Vayishlah 77, 1 [Theodor-Albeck edition, p. 910]).

[15] HaMa’alot MiMa’amakim, pp. 50-51.

[16] Ibid., p. 50.

[17] See Rav Y. Amital, “The Torah’s Attitude Towards Minorities in the State of Israel,” Daf Kesher vol. 2, Alon Shevut 1990, pp. 340-343; also printed in Judaism and Democracy: Lectures at a Day of Study, Jerusalem 1989; http://www.etzion.org.il/dk/1to899/200daf.htm [Hebrew].

[18] See Ehud Luz, Wrestling with an Angel: Power, Morality and Jewish Identity, New Haven 2003, pp. 214-220.

[19] Maimonides, Laws of Prohibited Sexual Relations, 19:17. See ibid., 12:24, and similarly Laws of Gifts to the Poor, 10:2, where Maimonides applies this definition to “all of Israel and those who join themselves to them.” See also Rav Jacob ben Asher, Arba TurimEven ha-Ezer, 2.

[20] Maimonides, Laws of Repentance, 2:10. See also Maimonides’s statement in Laws of Slaves, 9:8: “Cruelty and brazenness exist only in idolaters, but the seed of Abraham our father – and they are Israel, whom the Holy One, Blessed be He, has endowed with the favor of the Torah and commanded with righteous statutes and laws – they are merciful towards everyone.”

[21] Luz, p. 217.

[22] Despite the tendency to include that which is “beyond the letter of the law” within the law itself. See: Rav A. Lichtenstein, “Does Judaism Recognize an Ethic Independent of Halakha?” in his Leaves of Faith, volume 2: The World of Jewish Living (Jersey City, 2004); Luz, p. 217-8.

[23] Rav Amital relates to moral behavior as characterizing and identifying the unique image of the nation of Israel even in the course of regular speech, in a sermon on an entirely different topic. See: Rav Y. Amital, “How Shall I Ascend to My Father, When the Boy is Not With Me…” (discourse for Shabbat parashat Vayigash 5759), Alon Shevut Bogrim 13, 1999, pp. 9-13. In this sermon, over the course of two pages Rav Amital mentions such concepts as “moral image,” “the unique image of the nation of Israel” and so forth, interchangeably.

[24] “The Ethical Foundations of Rav Kook’s Nationalist Views: On the Significance of Rav Kook’s Teaching for our Generation,” originally published in The World of Rav Kook’s Teachings, eds. B. Ish-Shalom and S. Rosenberg, New York 1991; revised and corrected English translation in Alei Etzion 2 (1995), pp. 13-27. References are to the latter edition. Corrected translation is archived at http://www.vbm-torah.org/archive/rya2-eth.htm.

[25] Ibid., pp. 16.

[26] Ibid.

[27] Ibid., p. 23 (see Maimonides, Laws of Repentance, 2:10).

[28] Ibid.

[29] Ibid., p. 18.

[30] Ibid., p. 23.

[31] RAYH Kook, Lights of Holiness, III, Jerusalem 1974, p. 318 [Hebrew].

[32] Ibid.

[33] Ibid., p. 349; Rav Amital, ibid., p. 18.

[34] Rav Amital, ibid.

[35] Ibid., p. 16.

[36] Elsewhere, in a panel discussion organized ten years later with the same title as this article, Rav Amital explains the point of contact between Rav Kook’s words and our reality in terms of modern relevance: “Do you know what the most common word is in Rav Kook’s writings? Not ‘the Land of Israel,’ you can check; it is the word ‘morality,’ which appears almost everywhere. And who speaks today about Rav Kook’s morality? Nothing so important has yet been written concerning one’s attitude towards non-Jews as we find in Rav Kook’s writings. At the same time, Kahanists speak in the name of Rav Kook. Did you see the ‘Death to the Arabs’ graffiti sprayed all along the road to here? They all speak as though they are disciples of Rav Kook” (Alon Shevut Bogrim 8, 1996, p. 137). Another discussion of this topic is to be found in “Religious Significance.”

[37] “A Political or an Educational Message?” Alon Shevut 100, 1982, pp. 34-54 [Hebrew]; “Letter,” Alon Shevut 100, 1982, pp. 55-62 [Hebrew]. The Lebanon War broke out at the beginning of the summer of 1982. The discourse “A Politior an Educational Message” was delivered on October 6, 1982, and the letter was sent in September of the same year. They explicitly address the war and its events, the slaughter by the Phalangists in Sabra and Shatilla, the public debate concerning the entry into Beirut, and the reactions amongst the Israeli public, especially the Religious Zionist public.

[38] The reference here is to political stances that assumed a religious ideological basis (“We went to war in order to enforce order… the world order will be determined by us;” the obligation to enter Beirut without hesitation; support for the bombing of Beirut with no moral deliberation).

[39] “Political,” p. 39.

[40] Ibid., p. 41.

[41] “Letter” p. 61.

[42] RAYH Kook, Lights of Holiness, III, Introduction, #11, p. 27 [Hebrew]; ibid., p. 318; also The Teachings of Your Father, Jerusalem 1971, p. 94 [Hebrew].

[43] “The State of Israel, the foundation of God’s throne in this world, whose entire aim is that God should be One and His name one” (RAYH Kook, Orot Yisrael, p. 160) [Hebrew].

Yeshivat Har Etzion

Temptations, Tests, and the Search for Spiritual Courage

Tuesday, August 20th, 2013

I was recently walking down the street when I smelled one of the most amazing unkosher cuisines I could ever remember smelling. As I stared at my food enemy, I had a thought which I imagine most religious Jews have at one point or another. I wondered: Was God testing me with this great smell? Was this amazing scent a way to bring my downfall?

Pondering this trivial “test” led to a greater philosophical and theological question: What is the religious nature of temptations and tests?

The Torah says, “Remember the entire path along which the Lord your God led you these forty years in the desert, He sent hardships to test you.” (Deut. 8:2). We read that G-d has Bnei Yisrael wander in the desert for 40 years as a test.

What is this about? To place a nation (man, woman, and child) through such transient and confused misery for decades as a test? I also often wonder if the Jewish people are being tested today, with our own state in Israel and unprecedented wealth and influence in the US. What will we do with the great blessings we’ve been granted? What does this idea mean that G-d tests us as individuals and as a nation?

It must be more than schar v’onesh (that God is merely keeping our score card) or that G-d is merely flexing power in the world.

I also can’t relate to the cynical answer found in the book of Job, where God tests Job because of a disagreement with Satan. My belief in a benevolent and personal G-d precludes the possibility of random tests.

Still within distance of smelling my temptation of the day, I began to ponder answers:

For years, the most compelling answer to me has been that it is through the struggle of these challenges that we truly grow. These temptations are ways of teaching people about G-d and the incredible human capacity for compassion and spiritual depth. The Ramban argues that this was exactly the purpose of the Akeidah (the binding of Isaac) for Avraham.

Alternatively, perhaps there is a utilitarian approach that more people can learn from a test than the one having to undergo the discomfort of the test. The Rambam and Radak argue that the purpose of the test at the Akeidah was not for Avraham to learn but for the future adherents of the Abrahamic faith to learn. This sets a gold standard for others to try to follow.

Rav Kook goes even further, arguing that Avraham was being tested in order to “prove” to the pagan religions that monotheism can match the religious passion of pagan worship through the act of inward sacrifice, without the need for savage and barbaric sacrifices. One is being tested in order to teach others through its example.

Another utilitarian approach is that tests can provide opportunities for others to do mitzvot to help when we are struggling. It is for the moral good of the community at large.

These explanations may be true and all of them are worth thinking about but Rav Tzadok teaches that just as a person needs to believe in G-d so too one needs to believe in oneself. These days many of us (including myself) are struggling less with why we are tested by G-d and more with how we can overcome our obstacles and challenges to live a happier, more meaningful, more successful life. Do we believe in our own capacity to overcome in the face of adversity?

One tool that we can all consider experimenting with: The Gemara says that the Torah is the seasoning for the yetzer hara (personal evil inclination). The Maggid of Mezritch offers a beautiful interpretation that since the yetzer hara is the main dish and the Torah is the seasoning, we must serve God with the full ecstasy of the yetzer hara. The purpose is not to destroy or subdue the yetzer hara but rather to spice it up – to access its energy and channel it towards good.

This is to say that when we experience struggle we should use that temptation and channel that new energy towards good rather than attempt to dismiss or remove the temptation. This is why the Midrash explains that without the yetzer hara there would be no business or procreation. In a complex way, we need our desire for self-advancement to further societal goals.

Rabbi Dr. Shmuly Yanklowitz

Does Elu V’Elu Mean Tolerating the Intolerable?

Tuesday, June 11th, 2013

These men, too, are my brothers.  Although it is getting more difficult than ever to think of them that way. Most people know the issues I have with Satmar. There are many. But for purposes of this essay I will focus on their strident opposition to the existence of the State of Israel.

As I have said many times, they have every right to believe as they do, and state their case loudly and clearly. It is a view based on the now deceased Satmar Rebbe, R’ Yoel Teitelbaum. The  3 oaths mentioned in the Gemarah (Kesuvos 111a) prevent the Jewish people from any right to rule in the land of Israel. So under any condition, even if the state was ruled entirely by a Charedi government, they would still be opposed to it. As much as I vehemently disagree with them, I respect their right to hold these views. Elu V’Elu.

What I do not respect is the stridency by which they express those views… and the extent to which they go to make their point.

It started with the Satmar Rebbe himself, who referred to Rav Kook as an Ish Tzar V’Oyev because of his pro State views. This attitude has spread far beyond Satmar and is used to justify one Chilul HaShem after another by the Satmar Rebbe’s admirers in Meah Shearim and elsewhere. The very same attitude is responsible for the fringe Neturei Kartaniks who embrace people like Iran’s Ahmadinejad. Who espouses wiping Israel off the map… something I’m sure would get the approval of Satmar and all their sympathizers if done in a peaceful way. They have clearly stated that this is their goal.

Yesterday they did it again. They called for a rally in Manhattan. This was a rare moment of unity between the feuding brothers Teitelbaum – each claiming to be the heir to the Satmar throne. They called out their ‘troops’ in this cause. The result was a massive rally as can be seen in the photos at VIN. I’m sure they would call this a tremendous success and Kiddush HaShem.

Their stated purpose for this protest was their opposition to the Israeli draft of Charedim. In this they have the support of many Charedi rabbinic leaders. But their underlying antipathy for the State should not be over-looked. I believe this was true motivation for this rally. Here was yet another opportunity to bash Israel.  I’m sure they relished the moment.

The Centrist RCA condemned the rally. No surprise there. But many Charedi rabbinic leaders opposed that rally too, starting with R’ Aharon Leib Steinman. R’ Chaim Kanievsky added his name to R’ Steinman’s. And in America so too did Rav Shmuel Kamenetsky.

Back to Satmar. I do not see how a protest like this benefits Klal Yisroel in any way no matter how one feels about drafting Charedim. How is a public demonstration in Manhattan going to impact in any way on the government in Israel’s decision to equalize the draft? Especially if the protest was made by people who believe in dismantling the State?

Do they think Netanyahu will say, ‘Oh, Satmar is opposed to the draft… What was I thinking?!’ Or do they just think a rally like this will catch on with the greater Charedi public because of their leaders’ own strident opposition to the draft? Or perhaps they believe that a massive demonstration by a monolithic group of Chasidim that have separated themselves from the rest of the civilized world will somehow strike a chord with the American people?

Why did they do it? The answer to this is – I believe – of an entirely different nature. This was simply an opportunity to capitalize on something they thought would have universal appeal in the Charedi world. It is a sort of ‘I told you so’ moment… saying, ‘See how evil the Israeli government is?’ ‘You thought co-operating with them and getting funded was worth it?!’ ‘Well… what do you say now?!’ ‘Come join us in our goal to dismantle the Jewish State.’

I don’t think it worked. As I said, mainstream Orthodoxy condemned it, and Charedi rabbinic leaders were opposed to it. I hope they were as appalled at this demonstration as I was. But even if they were as appalled as I was and expressed it publicly, I doubt that that would sway Satmar in any way.
The only question is – how is this going to affect the relationship between mainstream Charedim and Satmar in the future? Will there ever again be a call from a Lakewood Rosh Yeshiva (or Mashgiach) to invite Satmar to one of its own rallies? … as was the case with the internet Asifa last year? Will they still chase down Satmar and capitulate to all their demands on how to conduct an Asifa, just to get them to attend?

Isn’t it about time to realize that Satmar is so far away from mainstream Orthodoxy – and even mainstream Charedim – that they should never again want to participate with them on any matters? Isn’t standing on the same stage with them in some way legitimizing them? I have heard that said in other contexts!

Like I said, this is not about Elu V’Elu anymore. This is about tolerating antics that are anathema to the Torah world in the name of their Shitos. In my view it should not be any more acceptable to stand with Satmar than it is to stand with Neturei Karta who have made clear their love affair with the President of Iran.  They may not go that far themselves. But the hatred of the Jewish state is the same.

Apparently the speaker in the photo above is Rav Eli Ber Wachtfogel. He is a Litvishe Charedi Rosh HaYeshiva. I’m told that there were also many other non Chasidic Litvishe type Charedi rabbinic leaders there too – like Chaim Berlin’s Rosh HaYeshiva, R’ Aharon Schecther.

Rav Schechter has walked in lockstep with Litvishe Charedi rabbinic leaders in Israel with respect to their bans. I recall his strident attack against Rabbi Natan Slifkin at an event held at a Modern Orthodox Shul in Teaneck a few years ago.  Rabbi Slifkin was viciously attacked for having the Chutzpah to challenge Israeli Gedolim with respect to the ban on his books. And yet yesterday he decided to ignore the call by some of these very same Gedolim to not participate in this demonstration. I find this very hard to reconcile.

Visit Emes Ve-Emunah .

Harry Maryles

I’m Not Voting for Obama, that’s for Sure

Monday, January 21st, 2013

People can stop reading my blog if they like. They can unfriend me on Facebook, and remove me from their groups, but I will continue to write the truth. Believe me, I don’t write to upset my fellow Jews. I write, bezrat Hashem, to help them to see through the darkness that surrounds us in foreign lands.

Once again, let me try to explain. The plague of darkness in Egypt is described as darkness “mamash,” meaning darkness so thick and tangible that you could literally reach out and physically feel it. Up until the plague, there was darkness in Egypt, the usual darkness of the galut, but the Jews had become so accustomed to it, they didn’t sense it anymore. So Hashem had to turn it into a physical darkness as thick as glue to remind them that they were in an impure place where they didn’t belong.

Why were they blind to the darkness? Because when people grow up in darkness, they don’t experience it as darkness at all. That’s what they’re used to. In fact, to them it seems like light. If you tell them they’re living in the dark, they are liable to get angry. “What do you mean?” they exclaim. “It isn’t dark here at all. You’re crazy. You don’t know what you are talking about. You’re an agitator, that’s all.”

How do I know that the exile is darkness? Because I lived there, and now that I’m in Israel, I can see the enormous difference. And should you ask, “Who is Tzvi Fishman that I should believe what he writes?” The answer is that it isn’t Tzvi Fishman at all.

In this week’s Torah portion, Rashi informs us that only 20% of the Jews left the Diaspora during the Exodus (Shemot, 13:18). 80% of them told Moshe to get lost! That’s right, 80% preferred to stay in America, I mean Egypt, not wanting to give up the delicious Egyptian bagels, the gala Federation dinners, their college studies at Cairo University, and their careers.

Our Sages also teach us about the darkness of chutz l’Aretz (outside of the Land of Israel), as it says in the tractate Sanhedrin, on the verse in the Book of Lamentations, “He has set me down in dark places, like those who are long ago dead” (Eichah, 3:6) – “Rabbi Yirmeya said: ‘This refers to the learning in Babylon,’” which doesn’t have the same illumination as the Torah learning in Eretz Yisrael (Sanhedrin 24A).

Yes, my friends, there can be a Torah learning that is shrouded in darkness. For example, the spies in the wilderness were the leaders of their tribes, the most prominent Torah scholars of the nation, but they didn’t understand that Eretz Yisrael is the foundation upon which the entire Torah and nationhood of Israel stands, as the Gemara teaches: “There is no greater bittul Torah than when the People of Israel are removed from their place” (Chagigah 4B). Like the 80% who wanted to stay in Egypt, and who died in the plague of darkness, these scholars and leaders of the Jewish People wanted to stay in the wilderness and not make aliyah as Hashem had commanded again and again. The Gaon of Vilna teaches that this same myopic understanding of Torah, which denies the centrality of the Land of Israel to the life of the Jewish Nation, is a sin which reappears in every generation, and even Talmidei Chachamin are caught in its darkness (“Kol HaTor,” Ch.5).

In our time, there were three great visionaries who taught us to see the truth of the Torah in the events of our times. Rabbi Avraham Yitzhak HaKohen Kook; his son, Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda HaKohen Kook; and Rabbi Meir Kahane, may their memories be for a blessing. Certainly, many other Rabbis shed light on our era, but along the path of my return to Torah and to Eretz Yisrael, these three Torah giants have been shining beacons of wisdom and truth, illuminating the world’s darkness. Each had his own style and individual stamp, with differences of emphasis and approach, but each one taught the Nation to see the Redemption that was taking place in our time, and to recognize the great light of Torah and tshuva contained in the ingathering of the exiles, the abandoning of galut, and the rebuilding of the Nation in Eretz Yisrael. It is a synthesis of their teachings that I am expounding, in my own inadequate way, and it is their genius in Torah, not mine.

Let me try to give you another simple example. Last night, I attended a wedding. There is nothing like a wedding in Israel, where there is concrete meaning to the saying that the holy union of the hatan and kallah (the groom and the bride), and the house they will inhabit, is an additional stone in the rebuilding of the Jerusalem Temple. When the band plays the verse of the song, “There will yet be heard on the hills of Judea and in the courtyards of Jerusalem, the voice of gladness and the voice of joy, the voice of the hatan and the voice of the kallah,” these words of the Biblical prophecy are coming true in front of your eyes.

And when everyone sings out the Psalm, “If I forget you, O Jerusalem, withered be my right hand! May my tongue cleave to my palate, if I ever not think of you, if ever I not set Jerusalem above my chiefest joy!” everyone present in that wedding hall in Israel means it. The words are not some abstract dream, spoken in some faraway land, but a living reality.

My friends, King David didn’t pen these words as just a pretty poem. On the wings of divine inspiration, he is teaching us that our love for Jerusalem is to be the guiding principle of our lives, even greater than the joy of our wedding, more cherished than our spouses, families, our villas, our Audis and Mercedes, more valued than our bank accounts, professions, and university degrees. We are to set Jerusalem above our chiefest joy, to struggle in its behalf, and to dedicate ourselves to its holy rebuilding.

“How can we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?” King David asks.

The answer is that we can’t.

To sing the Lord’s song, you have to sing it in Israel.

Tzvi Fishman

Warning! Xmas!

Sunday, December 23rd, 2012

With Santa Claus scheduled to arrive any minute, here are a few pre-Xmas warnings. Be sure to stay away from Xmas parties, non-kosher wine, frivolity, and kissing Suzy under the mistletoe. If there’s a Xmas party at the office, tell them you have a stomach ache. On Xmas day, keep as far away from their festivities as possible. Since Christians are considered idolaters, on their holiday it’s best not to have any business with them at all (Rambam, Laws of Idol Worship, Ch.9, 1-4).

Don’t be fooled into thinking that those twinkling Xmas lights are romantic, and that exchanging gift-filled stockings and candy canes is a harmless gesture of love. Remember, in the name of brotherly love, the Xtrians massacred millions of Jews throughout history. The color red that you see everywhere at Xmas-time is the blood of the Jews.

If I were in the Diaspora on Xmas, I’d spend the whole day locked in the john. It’s a lot purer there than out on the street. Xmas is the most impure day of the year. Its cloud of impurity is 100 times greater than the radioactive cloud that spread out over Hiroshima after the bomb was dropped. All over the world, in America, and Europe, and countries all over the globe, hundreds of millions of people are paying homage to Western civilization’s best loved idol worship.

The prohibition against idol worship tops the list of the Ten Commandments. No one is allowed to make or worship a graven image. As the Rambam explains, “The essential principle concerning idolatry is that people are not to worship anything created – neither angel, planet, star, the elements, or something derived from them.” That includes worshiping a man, and bending down to a statue, and praying to Buddhas, Hindu monkey gods, totem poles, crucifixes, and the like. I would post a few photos in illustration, but it is even forbidden to gaze upon the picture of an idolatrous figure, as it says, “Turn not after their idols” (Vayikra, 19:4. See Rambam, 2:2, loc. cited).

In Rabbi Kook’s writings on Christianity, he explains that it began as a break-away sect of Judaism which grew in influence and ultimately led the world astray with its doctrines. He categorizes it as idol worship, and says that its founder brought the majority of the world to err by serving a god other than the Almighty. By abandoning the mitzvot, Christianity enshrouded the world in a seemingly legitimate offshoot of idol worship. While imitating many of Judaism’s values and beliefs, Christianity actually led the world away from the true service of God.

Referring to Christianity’s renegade founder, the Rambam writes: “Can there be a greater stumbling block than this one? All of the Prophets spoke of the Messiah as the redeemer of Israel, and its savior, who would gather the dispersed and strengthen their observance of the commandments, while this one caused the annihilation of Israel by the sword, and caused its remnants to be scattered and scorned. He caused the Torah to be altered, and brought the majority of the world to err, and to serve a god other than the Lord…” (Laws of Kings and Their Wars, Uncensored version, Mosad HaRav Kook edition, Ch11).

This is what we affirm several times a day in the concluding“Aleynu” prayer. The following verse is deleted in many prayer books used in the Diaspora, but here in Israel, we say it concerning the nations, “They bow down to vanity and emptiness, and pray to a god that cannot save.”

The “Aleynu” prayer expresses our heartfelt wish that idol worship be uprooted from the earth, and that the world come to understand that God alone is the One and Only King, “We hope, therefore, Lord our God, soon to behold Your majestic glory, when the abominations will be removed from the earth, and the false gods exterminated; when the world will be perfected under the reign of the Almighty, and all mankind will call upon Your Name, and the wicked of the earth will be turned to You. My all the inhabitants of the world realize and know that to You every knee must bend and every tongue vow allegiance….”

There is no question that we have a lot of problems and challenges facing us in Israel, but at this time of the year, I have to take time-out from the headlines to thank Hashem for granting me the incomparable blessing of living in His Holy Land, and not in the spiritually polluted lands of the Diaspora, where Christmas is being celebrated in all of its insidious force and make-believe holiness.

Tzvi Fishman

We Ain’t Got a Soul in America

Wednesday, December 19th, 2012

In our previous blog, where we saw how the prophets of Israel and our greatest Rabbis described the exile as a zombie-like existence for the Jewish People, because when we are scattered in foreign lands, our national format is destroyed, and we are left like dry lifeless bones. To understand this more deeply, we will continue with our translation of the book, “Binyan Emunah,” by Rabbi Moshe Bleicher, a longtime student of Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook, and Rosh Yeshiva of the Shavei Hevron Yeshiva in the city of Hevron.

Please note that these are very deep matters, and our condensed excerpts from the book don’t present the total overall picture that readers will glean from the entire book itself.

From the Chapter, “Exile and Redemption”:

In order to understand why the exile is a situation of death for the Jewish People, we have to first meditate on the meaning of life. As much as life is familiar to us, there is a secret of life which we cannot fathom, and this is the force of life itself, a Divine Creation.

An example will make this clear. A human being’s body contains many organs, some of which are extremely complicated and sophisticated. For instance, the eye is an advanced optical mechanism which functions in a wondrous manner. However, if we were to remove the eye and mount it on a wall to serve as a security camera, the eye wouldn’t work at all. Only through its connection with the body, and with the general life force that exists in it – the soul – can an eye fulfill its function.

Why is this? Isn’t the eye sophisticated enough to operate by itself? Is the fact that it can’t function apart from the body a sign that it is a more primitive mechanism than some electronic optical devise which can? No. The reason that the eye cannot function without it being attached to the body is because the eye isn’t a private organ which exists by itself. This is also true for the other organs of the body – the ear, the brain, the heart, etc. If you were to take out all of the organs of the body and connect them together, a man wouldn’t result – only a big, lifeless doll. The thing which gives man his essence as a man is the general life force inside of him. This is what enlivens and operates all the organs of the body, determines their function, and also gives man his consciousness as a man. Isn’t the eye which sees, and the ear which hears, but rather, the general force of life in a man, his soul, which hears via the ear, and sees via the eye.

Just as a life force animates an individual, the same is true for the Clal, for Am Yisrael, as a Nation. Hashem created us as a Nation at Sinai, to sanctify His Name in the world – precisely in our National format in Israel, and not in the wilderness of Sinai, or in other foreign places in the world. Am Yisrael is capable of illuminating existence by revealing the Divine Ideal in life, and through this, to raise existence out of its darkness, and to attach it to its Divine Source. The nations of the world also call upon the Name of God and praise His greatness, but in the very same breath, they are capable of murdering millions and carrying out the most savage and bestial acts. In contrast, when Am Yisrael calls upon the Name of G-d, it is to reveal and establish the Divine Ideal and Morality in the world, with the altruistic aspiration of bettering the life of all mankind.

This lofty moral recognition is the innovation which Am Yisrael brings to the world. “This Nation have I created for myself, they will declare My praise.” The ability of Am Yisrael to declare the praises of Hashem, to illuminate the world and liberate it from its truncated framework of private interests and egotistical concerns, from its bondage to individual lusts, by attaching all of the forces of life to their ideal Divine Source, this stems from the unique vision of Am Yisrael that recognizes the existence of a single unifying Divine Goal which stands at the foundation of the world – the recognition that there is a single unifying force of life that lends ideal meaning to all of the details of life. This is a great Kiddush Hashem, the ability to reveal in life the Universal Unity which gives life to everything.

The Soul of Existence, the Ideal Goal which stands at the foundation of life, is not a mere spiritual thing, but rather a powerful and dynamic life force which activates all of the wheels and gears of existence, pushes them toward greater and greater perfection and expression in life. For example, with an apple tree, the “goal of the tree” isn’t an abstract matter, but a concrete life force which dictates the stages of the tree’s development up till the appearance of its fruit. Similarly, the soul of a person isn’t a spiritual entity disconnected from the body and its powers, but is the very life force which activates and gives meaning to every organ and faculty of life. This same understanding holds true for the Soul of Existence as well.

Applying this metaphor to the world, Am Yisrael is the “body” which is able to absorb this Inner Truth that there is a Divine Soul to existence, and which is able to attach all branches of life to their inner, general, all-encompassing, Clalli, Source. This Clalli Soul appears in Am Yisrael as a dynamic and empowering life force. This is what gives the Nation its life, and from its driving force, the Israelite Nation has the motivation and willpower to establish and build a State in its Land, an army, and a thriving economy. All of its National life surges forth from this inner, exalted Truth, to the point where the Nation of Israel has no private, egocentric interest in attaining glory and accolades on the stage of history, but only to sanctify the Name of God in the world, and to reveal how all of the systems and frameworks of life, with all of their details, stem from the ideal, universal, Divine Life-Force which activates all of existence.

As we mentioned, the principle Kiddush Hashemoccurs when we reveal how the Source of Divine Unity stands behind all of life, uniting everything. Am Yisrael was created to illuminate this Truth, to declare the praises of God. When Am Yisrael gathers in its Land, every Tribe in its inheritance, and with the Beit HaMikdash rebuilt on the Temple Mountthis Clallilife-force appears in the life of the Israelite Nation, in all aspects of its National existence, in their most ideal and healthy format.

Like with an individual man, whose soul gives life to all of his organs and limbs, so too, when Am Yisrael returns to Eretz Yisrael, its unique, Clalli life-force,which only comes to life within the Nation when it dwells in its Land, radiates its powers to all of the national faculties of the Nation, and to every vista of its life. The more the Nation is true to its inner essence, and knows how to direct its varied endeavors to draw vitality and strength from the Source of its life, the healthier it will be, and it will succeed in achieving its mission in the most complete and ideal fashion.

This is a life of national Kiddush Hashem, where the Divine Presence is revealed in our midst, through the realization of the ideal, universal, Divine Goals and Aspirations in the life of the Nation as we live our National Torah life in our unique Holy Land.

However, when the Nation of Israel is exiled from its Land, and its general, Clalli, life force is lost, all of its life undergoes a drastic descent. Its general, Clalli soul ascends to the celestial heights, and no longer functions as the battery source of the now scattered and splintered Jewish People. Now, exiled from its Land, and unable to exist in its National format, the individual, private side of life becomes dominate, and the forces of life appear separately, seemingly independent, one from the other, without stemming from a unifying, general life-force. In this way, the level of life changes, and the entire observance of Torah and its commandments falls into the category of“Set way-marks up for yourselves,” (Yirmeyahu, 32:20), as described in the vivid words of our Sages, concerning a verse found in the second paragraph of the Shema“And you will quickly perish from the Land….” (Devarim, 11:17).

Our Sages teach: “Even though I am exiling you from the Land to outside of the Land, be distinguished by the mitzvot, so that when you return they won’t seem new in your eyes. This can be compared to a king who became angry with his queen, and sent her back to her father house, telling her to continue to wear her royal jewels so that they would not seem new to her when she returned to the palace. Thus said the Holy One Blessed Be He to Israel: My son, keep adorned with the mitzvot so that when you return they will not seem new. This is what Yirmeyahu told them, ‘Set up way-marks for yourselves’ – these are the commandments by which Israel is distinguished”

These words of our Sages are eye-opening and even staggering. Concerning the performance of the commandments in the Diaspora, the inner truth of the matter is that outside of the Land of Israel, where theClalli, life force of the Nation doesn’t appear, there is no essential meaning in observing the commandments. The only reason for our still keeping the precepts inChutz L’Aretz is because of our past connection to theClalli soul of the Nation which vitalized us when we lived in our Land, and because of our connection to the future when the Clalli soul will return and reveal itself in our resurrected national life with the ingathering of our exiles to Zion.

A living holiness, filled with vitality, is the “electricity” which activates the soul of the Nation and the general,Clalli, life force within it. This force is what gives life to the details of the Torah and to its commandments. Thus, when the Nation isn’t living, when it is exiled from the Land and its organs are scattered throughout a netherworld of impure and unholy places, there is no essential value in keeping the mitzvot, and we are commanded to continue to perform them only so we don’t forget how to do them, so they won’t seem new to us when we return to our own Holy Land, where theClalli soul comes to life with the union of the Nation and the Land.

It is important to understand that the startling new insight revealed by our Sages is not that the precepts practiced in the exile are merely road signs to help us remember the way home, as indicated by the Prophet’s command, “Set up way-marks for yourselves,” but that it is possible at all to learn Torah and perform commandments in our altered and “decomposed” situation in exile, where we merely exist, without life, like in the prophesy of the valley of lifeless bones. The ability to do so only stems from our deep inner, historic, and genetic connection, even in our disintegrated situation in exile, to our complete, former, national, Clalli life as a Nation in its Land.

All of our life changes when we are in Galut. Not only does our Clalli soul disappear, but every detail of our life is affected. Regarding the teaching of the Gemara, “Everyone who dwells outside of the Land of Israel is like someone who has no God” (Ketubot 110B), Rabbi Pincus HaLevi Horewitz, author of the commentary,“HaHafla’a,” writes that this is speaking about a person who observes the Torah and mitzvot in Chutz L’Aretz – but because he doesn’t live in Eretz Yisrael, he is like someone who doesn’t have a G-d. The reason behind this is that outside the Land of Israel something profoundly essential is missing – our general, Clalli soul.

Therefore, in the exile, Jewish Belief (Emunah) and the worship of God appears in an incomplete form. If Emunah was merely a philosophical and intellectual discipline, there wouldn’t be any meaningful difference between its revelation during the Galut or at the time of Redemption (Geula). However, as we shall continue to explore, Emunah is the encounter with Divine Existence as it is revealed in our midst when we are a sovereign Nation in our Land. Thus, during the time of exile, when the general, Clalli life-force is withheld from us, and where God only appears in “the four cubits of Halacha,” in the life of individuals, the entire encounter with the lofty goals of the Torah, which appear in a dynamic living fashion in the national life of the Nation in our Land, is lost. It follows that the deeper levels of Emunah also are missing, and the individual Jew encounters his Maker on a shattered level, which is only a shadow of true and complete Emunah.

Tzvi Fishman

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